Technical writers or non fiction writers scribble to pay the bills and for the love of the analytical or the exercise of truth or deception.

Fiction authors write to illuminate their world or escape it.

Whichever kind of writer, it's all about staying alive and helping or entertaining others.

The Writing Life

Like most writers, I have a love of reading and the power of words. When I was younger, I read everything I could get my hands on, but I don’t consider myself well read. I consumed books like a starved person, so quickly I hardly knew what I had read. By some strange process of osmosis, I learned from everything I read, but I cannot give you an erudite discussion of characters, plots, or authors. I can only tell you it’s lodged some where in the core of my being and informs my writing.

In addition to reading, I’ve spent a life time writing---from that first elementary school composition to my college days when I studied French literature and wrote explications de texte. Along the way, I fell into technical writing--to put food on the table and pay bills. In the 90s, I had the good fortune to take a dialog class with Sol Stein, former owner of Stein & Day publishers in New York and a prolific author. That led to his California-based writers’ group, Chapter One. It was a rigorous, ego-bruising experience, but I was intent on learning everything I could about fiction writing. A few years ago, I also had the good fortune to study with another writer, Louella Nelson, an experienced romance writer and teacher of fiction writing. She provided a different perspective and balance to my writing.

My novel, DREAMING OF LAUGHING HAWK, a mainstream, Sixties era novel, is available on Amazon in print and ebook (also available in Canada, Europe, Japan, and Brazil). Download a free sample. If you like it, I hope you'll download the book and post a review on Amazon.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Writers: All We Need is Love?

Listen to the buzz on writer blogs and the undercurrent you detect is one of confusion and frustration about becoming a published writer. I’m a struggling fiction writer, but I earn my living as a technical writer. I am paid a fairly decent wage for my analytical skills, technical knowledge, and writing ability. My job is to provide user documentation that is concise and easy to follow. It is satisfying to receive praise for your work. Sure, I receive editorial and technical input from peer writers/editors, management, and subject matter experts, but my job is to do the magic of pulling that all together—just like any writer. I am respected for the work I do.

One big difference between technical writing and fiction writing is that technical writers are not forced to run an obstacle course to complete a project. If someone or something gets in the way of my project, I raise holy hell and there is some kind of resolution. Not so with fiction writing. When it comes to fiction writing, you have no leverage. No one respects you for your work. It’s far easier to sign up for the Marines’ Camp Pendleton Mud Run and endure skinned shins and wading through mud and slime than it is to get a book published. The fiction writing process assumes you are incompetent and untouchable until you successfully survive the vagaries of the publishing obstacle course. Sink or swim. And even if you are finally published, you may be disappointed when your hard work is tossed aside like a piece of rotting fruit because it didn’t initially sell enough to make someone all the dollars they expected.

So here’s my assessment: life is unfair and fiction writers have an especially hard lot. We don’t get a lot of support. Mostly we get beaten up or lead astray.
  • What strategies are you using as a fiction writer to get where you want to go?
  • Are you happy with your game plan or are you overwhelmed by all the demands that are made upon you that take you away from the true practice of your craft?
  • What makes you keep on going or are you ready to throw in the towel?

2 comments:

  1. It'd be a lot easier if there were a set of rules or an established procedure for fiction writers to follow, but instead it's a lot of chaos and subjective "rules" that aren't really rules because the people who bandy them around don't follow them. That's what drives me nuts about it.

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  2. My game plan for writing my "one big novel" has never been on the front burner of the stove, even a camp stove. My fault (and apparent choice), of course, but the demands on my time wouldn't make it easy to put it front and center. I work on it at a snail's pace or slower, but in my mind I'm constantly editing, reconfiguring, adding characters, resolving conflicts, and the like. So the way I figure it, someday I should be able to sit down and write the whole thing in about a week! Who am I kidding?

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